Pre-College Advising • Pre-College Planning Guide

How to Identify the Best-Fit High School for Your Child

POSTED ON 12/07/2022 BY The Red Pen

How to Identify the Best-Fit High School for Your Child | The Red Pen

In the last 2 decades, the education landscape in India has changed drastically. Now, you face several questions when it comes to selecting the best-fit school for your child. Should you opt for a school that offers international curricula, such as the IB, A Levels or Advanced Placements? Should you stick to the Indian curriculum, such as CBSE or CISCE? Which school offers a diverse range of extracurriculars so that your child can explore their interests?

There are many ways in which you can go about selecting a school. Below we’ve outlined some of the most important factors that you should consider:

1) Curriculum:

One of the first things to consider when deciding which school is the best fit for your child is to see whether the curriculum matches your child’s learning style. Does your child excel when they memorise concepts and theories or are they more inclined towards application-based and analytical learning? This will help you understand where your child will be able to perform to their best ability. Traditionally, Indian curricula are more focused on academics, with structured learning and an emphasis on rote learning and grades. International curricula, on the other hand, are more holistic in their approach, have smaller class sizes and focus on activities outside of school.

When it comes to planning for future college admissions, you should know that both Indian and international curricula are recognised by universities abroad. Rather than the curriculum, these universities are looking for students who are at the top of their class within their school. Hence, for admission purposes, it is more important to select the most rigorous subjects within the chosen curriculum rather than selecting a rigorous one that is not suited to you your child.

2) Programme and opportunities offered:

Now that you’ve identified which curriculum and learning style is the best fit for your child, you can start researching various schools and what they offer. It is not compulsory for all schools to offer the same subject combinations, while some may only offer limited subjects. So, you need to ensure that the school provides the subjects in which your child is interested. In addition, find out more about the various clubs, sports and extracurricular opportunities that are available. Also, you need to find out about the facilities, such as sports grounds or science labs and equipment from which your child might benefit.

3) School culture:

Next, you need to look at the school’s culture. Certain schools may have a reputation for being more competitive, with better college admits. However, when choosing a school for your child, it is vital to go beyond academics and check if your child will thrive in this competitive culture or not. Your child might need a hands-on approach when it comes to their education, which is why a school with smaller classrooms and intimate discussions might be a better fit.

At The Red Pen, we’ve seen students thrive in different environments. One of our students, who attended a competitive school, felt that it was due to his environment that he could push himself and grow. Another one of our students was struggling at his current school. He decided that moving to a different school that offered a more personalised approach to learning for grades 11 and 12, may be better for him. After the switch, his confidence increased and his grades improved.

4) Location:

Once you have a few schools in mind, it’s time to look at their location. In high school, alongside preparing for tests and exams and dealing with increased academic rigour, your child will also be participating in school clubs, working on passion projects and having added responsibilities in their other extracurricular activities. As all these scenarios are time-consuming, you should try to identify schools that are close to your homes to avoid additional travel time.

5) Cost:

One of the factors that might determine your child’s school is cost. High school is just the beginning of your child’s academic journey. As your child continues to an undergraduate and then maybe a postgraduate programme, these costs will only increase. Thus, it is important to understand whether the school fits within your budget. Keep in mind that in addition to the school fee, there will be other expenses over the course of the year. It is important to factor in all these costs while choosing a school.
Costs also varies depending on the curriculum offered. In general, international schools are more expensive than Indian schools.

After shortlisting schools based on the above factors, you need to factor in each one’s admission timeline and process. Admissions timelines vary depending on the curriculum offered and the year of intake.

In general, most CBSE and CISCE schools have application deadlines between October and February, while IGCSE, A Levels and IBDP admissions begin in June and the process often goes on until January. New student intakes usually occur in grades 8 and grade 11.

Besides this, the admissions process also varies between schools. While most schools require you to fill out an admission form, followed by an interview, many prominent schools also conduct an entrance test to assess the student’s academic performance.

Here are some of the components for high school admissions:

1) Application/Registration form:

Most forms require students to provide personal information, grades from the past two or three years and an extracurricular activity list. Depending on the school, the form may also ask students to write a personal statement explaining their achievements and why they would like to attend that particular school.

2) Entrance exam:

There are some schools that require students to complete an entrance exam in mathematics, English and occasionally, science. For example, Dhirubhai Ambani International School requires its IB students to sit through two admissions tests. Stage 1 is a multiple-choice test that assesses logical reasoning, mathematics and English language skills. Stage 2 is a descriptive test that evaluates English, mathematics and an elective paper in science or social science.

3) Interview:

Most schools will require students to sit for an interview as part of their admission process. The interview style can be academic or non-academic and can range from about 10 minutes to 40 minutes. For instance, last year, Hill Spring International School did not conduct an entrance exam. Hence, in the interview, students were asked questions that tested their knowledge of mathematics and science. Students were asked about scientific concepts and to solve mathematical problems on the spot. Non-academic interviews are usually based on understanding the student’s academic interests and extracurricular activities.

To ensure that you make the right decision, we suggest that you research each school and then create a table that has all the factors mentioned above, along with the pros and cons of each. It is also important to have an ongoing dialogue with your child to adequately prepare them for their new school. Remember, it isn’t about choosing the ‘best’ school, but the ‘right’ school for your child where they will be able to thrive. If you need help in making your school list, get in touch with us.